Monthly Archives: December 2011

This is Home

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map.  It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together.  Not a place but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” -Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye


Not a set house

or a single town on a map

It’s wherever the people who love you are

Whenever you’re together

 Not a place, but a moment

and then another

building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter 

that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go. 

After the Fire

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is 1 Kings 19:11-12.  The verses read as follows:

“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

As my screwed-up college sleep schedule kept me awake for the fourth night in a row, this verse popped into my head.  Being a student at a Bible college, the majority of my daily life is about finding the Lord in some way or another.  Whether we’re studying theology, surveying the Old Testament, or discussing life in spiritual community, our classes focus on pursuing the Lord.  With pursuit of Christ becoming a day-to-day, academic task, it’s easy for it to become impersonal.  To become stilted.  To get caught up in the noise, the friends, the grades, the papers, the chapel, the music, the conversations… and forget to listen for the gentle whisper.

Perhaps if a Moody student had been the one encountering the Lord in 1 Kings, the verses would go something like this:

“The Lord said, ‘Go out and sit in the plaza in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.  Then a large group of friends in laughing fellowship came and shared testimonies and good times, but the Lord was not in the large group of friends.  After the group of friends came there was a worship chapel, filled with emotion, swelling music, and raised hands, but the Lord was not in the worship chapel.  After the worship chapel came a series of final papers and exams about doctrine and the Bible, trying to figure out the intricacies of the Christian faith, but the Lord was not in the series of final papers and exams about doctrine and the Bible.  And after the finals papers and exams came Christmas break, solitude at long-last, and quiet bedrooms at home.  And in the quiet came a gentle whisper.”

This break has afforded me, literally, the first chance since January to think and process the events of the last year.  The thoughts are swirling through my head almost faster than I can register their existence, and I finally have time to acknowledge them as they come.  The result is a fair amount of journaling, listening to a lot of music, and sleeping at odd times.  There have been a lot of big events and changes in my life over the course of this past year… things that really deserve a day or two of processing, prayer, journaling.  And finally, finally I have a chance to process.  The fire has died down, and after the fire comes a gentle whisper.

Running, Planning and Trust

If you’ve known me for even a day or two, you know that I hate running.  I complain loudly and often if forced to run any distance, and would rather walk ten miles than run even one.  Something about that particular movement, combined with my uncoordinated limbs and general distaste for athletic activity can send me into sheer panic just thinking about it.

If you’ve known me for a while longer, let’s say a couple weeks, you have realized that I am a planner.  You can blame it on the fact that I’m a firstborn, chalk it up to the fact that my “highest scoring” spiritual gift is leadership, or just call me obnoxious, but I like to have things nailed down.  As a child, I had to know the exact order of the day’s plans.  If the plan of McDonald’s, the grocery store, then the bank changed to the bank, McDonald’s, then the grocery store; 3-year-old Alyssa would throw a tantrum and be thrown off for the rest of the day.  I’m not quite so extreme at this stage in my life, but I do still like to have life figured out.  I send out mass-texts detailing the evening’s plans, create facebook groups for my class months before arriving at college, and planned out my optimal schedule for the next four years a looong time ago.

Though college has taught me how to be more spontaneous and less anal, I still get a panicky feeling in my chest if my plans change at the last minute.  When I make a split-second decision to walk to the 24-hour Starbucks and join a study group, I inwardly question the decision the whole way there.  When the plans I made at lunch fall through after dinner, the same feeling rises to 18-year-old Alyssa’s brain as the one that sent 3-year-old Alyssa into a tailspin.  I have to consciously remind myself that it’s okay, life goes on, and my night is not ruined.

This desire to control extends itself quite easily into my long-term plans.  I sometimes think I have it all figured out.  I know how I want my life to go… but then God throws a wrench into my plans.  That wrench is called His plan.  He shows me a little glimpse of it, but never what I think is enough.  And the questions spring up.

Where am I going? Did I choose the right major? What am I going to do with my life? Where should I go to church? Am I going to get married, or will I glorify You better if I’m single? What should I do this summer? 

God responds by holding out His hand toward me.  He asks, “Do you trust Me?”

“Of COURSE I trust you, Lord!” I reply.  This is ridiculous. For goodness’ sake, I’m a Moody student.  I’ve been on missions trips.  I go to church, mentor other girls, encourage others via snail mail.  I’m a Christian, obviously I trust Him!  I look up at Him with my best duh expression, unprepared for His immediate response.

“Then grab on and hold on tight – we’re going for a run.”

I freeze.

He knows how I feel about THAT particular activity.  I mean, why can’t we just drive down the path of life together?  Or ride bikes?  I would be okay with a brisk walk even, but running?!  I hate running.

“Do you trust Me?” He asks again.

Well… yes, of course I trust You… it’s just… You know how I feel about running.  And, on second thought, I think I have a pretty good plan figured out for my life anyway, so maybe if it’s all the same to You, I’ll just go for a walk.  Or go to bed.  Or, You know, just not run.  Ever.  I don’t run.  You know that.  I can’t believe you would even ask me to run.  I thought You knew how I felt about running.  I can’t do it.  I won’t do it.” I mutter my response nervously, picking at my cuticles and cracking my toes inside my shoes.  When I look up, He is simply staring patiently, still holding out His hand.

“Let’s go running,” He repeats, a little more emphatically, stretching His hand closer to me.  “Trust Me.  You’re going to love it.”

Maybe it’s the patience in His eyes.  Maybe it’s the scars on the palm that’s extended so earnestly toward me, reminding me of the ultimate sacrifice He made for me.  Maybe it’s the knowledge, deep inside of me, that He will carry me when I get too tired to run on my own.  Whatever it is, I stretch out my hand with a building feeling of anticipation.

He folds it into His own, and instantly I feel His strength flood into me.

Where are we going?” I ask.

Trust me,” He replies.

And we begin to run.

Blessed Beyond Belief, Part 2

Somehow, my first semester at Moody is drawing to a close.  By this time on Wednesday, I will be back in Michigan and done with my first term of studies here in Chicago.  I have been incredibly and abundantly blessed this semester.  I shared some of these blessings last week at this time, and now I’m going to share some more.

Culbertson 11:I could honestly go on and on about our brother floor… Moody does bro-sis floors to encourage community, especially amongst the freshman.  It would be really easy for me to be cynical about this particular tradition… but I have made some incredible friends from my brother floor (Culby 11).  As I type this, I am with a group of 5 of them (and 2 other girls from my floor) at Starbucks.  Earlier today I went to church with two of my brothers, and on Friday night about 6 of us hung out in the tunnels until 1 am.  We have shared our stories, laughed together, gone on adventures, drank coffee, studied together, and shared life here at Moody.  We eat at the same table in the SDR each day, and meal times are honestly a time I look forward to every day.  I’m so thankful for this group I’ve found here, and I pray that we’ll be able to continue fellowshipping together next year when our brother floor changes.

Chapel: We have required chapels on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday each week.  Because Moody is such an incredible school, we have been blessed to have some incredible speakers.  These include Clarence Shuler, Keith Ferrin, Jack Lousma, and many others.  Though it is occasionally difficult to stay awake in chapel (especially after a late night!), it’s usually a time of worship and refreshment for me, and an excellent way to start my day.  I’ve been challenged by a lot of the speakers and I always enjoy singing in worship with the rest of the Moody students.

My Classes! This should have been closer to the top of the list.  I’ve made it pretty clear that I love my social life and friends here at Moody, but let’s be honest: the classes are the real reason I’m here.  I have learned more in this semester than I did in all four years of high school, and all of it is practical knowledge about Scripture, doctrine, or life in Christ that I will use for the rest of my life.  My professors were all engaging, intelligent, well-spoken, and willing to help.  As I study for exams and reflect on how much I’ve learned this semester, I am absolutely astounded.

There are many, many more things I could talk about.  Specific friends, teachers, and classes have blessed me in hundreds of little ways.  The churches I have attended this semester have been incredible, and I am prayerfully sure that I’ve found the one I’m going to attend for the next four years.  I could go on forever and ever, but right now, I need to memorize some Old Testament key words and about 100 dates and study my Church and Its Doctrines key verses.  Pray for me.

Blessed Beyond Belief: Part One

My first semester at Moody is (somehow) moving into finals week and Christmas break.  As I reflect on the shortest 5 months of my life, I am so thankful for the many blessings God has placed in my life at Moody.  Since today is the calm before the finals storm, I thought I would take a minute to share some of them.

My roommate: On March 30, 2011, I received a facebook message that read:

Hey! I saw you post that you are planning to major in TESOL… How cool!! I’m also considering it but am not completely sure yet what the Lord is leading me to do, specifically anyway. I know He wants me at Moody though so He will continue to lead me as I follow Him… :)
It’s great to “meet” you though! Thanks for creating the group. I’m excited to meet some more future Moody students! :)

Little did I know that this message would bloom into a conversation, which would result in a timid question of whether she would like to room with me, which would lead to one of the best friendships I have ever had.  Molly is possibly the most encouraging person I have ever met.  I can’t imagine college without her.  We have laughed together, cried together, had “freshmen meltdowns” on the same day, shared meals, decorated together, and somehow made it through the entire semester without so much as an argument.

My five (MAGKA?!): Through a series of mostly random events, four girls on my floor have become some of the dearest friends I have ever known.  Molly, Alyssa, Grace, Kelci, and myself gather each night for pow-wows and prayer.  What should be about a 25 minute meeting usually stretches into an hour or two as we share the best and worst parts of our day, lift each other up in prayer, and inevitably go off on approximately 18,093 rabbit trails.  It’s so reassuring to know I have a support net to fall back on, 24/7.

PCM: When I read that I had been placed at the South Asian Friendship Center for my PCM, my attitude was not one of enthusiasm.  I have never “felt drawn” to Muslim or Hindu culture, and I thought for sure that the PCM office had made a mistake.  After all, I wanted to work with Hispanic teens.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The group I was placed with has become a family.  I work with the sweetest children I’ve ever met, most of whom moved here from Pakistan or India within the last couple of years.  The director of the Center, who prays with us each week, is one of the wisest women I know.  I leave each week feeling both totally refreshed and as if I have made a difference in the life of those kids.

I don’t have time to share more now, and you are probably nearing the end of your attention span.  🙂
I think back to the summer I prayed Jacob’s prayer, “I’m not letting go until You bless me,” and realize that He is answering that prayer in enormous ways.  Thank You, Jesus.